Columns

GOP Lawmaker: Congress Should Stop Funding War in Afghanistan

Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) speaks with reporters in Statuary Hall on May 4, 2017. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

WASHINGTON – Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) told PJM is an exclusive interview that President Trump should not increase the number of troops in Afghanistan and that Congress should stop spending money on military operations in the country.

“I’m absolutely opposed to it, because if you increase the number of American troops that means the number of Americans to be killed and wounded goes up. And again, I come back to the point, what have we accomplished? We spent over $800 billion dollars. We are very close to $1 trillion in the past 16 years,” Jones said.

“We’ve had over 2,200 Americans killed and 20,000 wounded. What have we accomplished? In fact, [Hamid] Karzai, the former leader of Afghanistan, is now trying to get the Russians to negotiate with the Taliban so he can go back into power. It’s now like the Wild West that is wilder than it has ever been… by increasing the number of troops, all you’re doing is increasing the odds of American troops being killed or wounded,” he added.

Jones argued that “trying to build empires around the world” does not work.

“History has proven it doesn’t work going back to the Roman Empire. I mean, anybody that knows history – that’s what [former Marine Corps Commandant] Gen. Charles Krulak has said to me many times – if you know history, you will know that no one is going to change Afghanistan. It is a tribal nation,” he said.

Jones told PJM that Congress has not had a “legitimate debate” on Afghanistan since 2001, which is part of the reason he introduced H.R. 1666, which would “prohibit funds for activities in Afghanistan” if passed and signed into law.

“More important than the money is young men and women are being killed and wounded and Congress has a constitutional responsibility to debate and vote about sending our young men and women to war, but we don’t do debates like those anymore,” he said. “Yes, there have been efforts by Democrats and Republicans to put amendments on appropriations bills with money going to Afghanistan, but really no policy debate at all.”

Jones would like to see House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) ask the “committees of jurisdiction to mark up a new Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF).”

“We’ve written him letters, we talked to him personally and he has not done it. This is going to be an effort of trying to get more and more members of Congress of both parties to come together for no other reason but to say after 16 years is it now a time to debate the issues of our country and our military in Afghanistan, and what’s the definition of victory? After 16 years we have no definition of victory,” Jones said.

“We’re saying you, not the president, but you have the authority as leader of the House to permit your members of the House to meet their constitutional responsibility of debating war. It’s not up to the president, it’s up to the Speaker of the House and he hasn’t done it,” he added.

Jones was asked for his response to Republicans who argue the United States needs to continue to fight terrorism in Afghanistan to prevent terrorists from coming to our shores.

“My response to that is I’m more worried about jihadists in Central and South America than I am over 10,000 miles away and I think the Taliban – most of the Taliban are from Afghanistan, mostly from the different tribes, and the Pashtuns, one of the largest tribes – I think they can take care of the groups there that they don’t think should be there,” he replied.

“They fought Alexander the Great, they fought the Russians and now they are fighting us. So, that to me doesn’t hold water. We’ve got too many problems south of the border and potential attacks from south of the border that are much, much closer than 10,000 miles away,” he added.

Jones pointed out that former President George W. Bush was targeting al-Qaeda in Afghanistan immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“So initially going into Afghanistan I think was the right thing to do. But staying there for 16 years is not the right thing to do,” he said.

Jones encouraged lawmakers and the public to listen to John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghan reconstruction, and follow the latest reports on the SIGAR website.

“Read about all the waste, fraud and abuse – there are a few good things going on, but there are many, many bad things that are going wrong and it is the taxpayers’ money plus the taxpayers’ daughters and sons who are over there,” Jones said.

Given his position on the war in Afghanistan, Jones was asked if he supports Trump’s request to spend $54 billion more on defense.

“Well, I know we need to rebuild our military, that I would agree with and that does cost money, but when you divert some of this money to places like Afghanistan, that’s the reason that I come down against it because there’s no accountability – there’s no financial accountability. The best thing we’ve got going is John Sopko, inspector general, but the committees of jurisdiction will keep spending money down a black hole with no end to it,” he said.

PJM also asked Jones to name some of the efforts he would like Congress to focus on instead of Afghanistan.

“I think we can do a lot to ensure with technology and other abilities that our nation has, we can be better prepared for attacks and especially from those that are coming from Central America and South America and do a great job of working with other countries to prevent those who want to come to our homeland and create havoc,” he replied.